The Ohio State basketball program had a streak broken without even playing a game back on June 26.
The Buckeyes saw a player drafted seven consecutive years—dating back to 2007—which was the top current streak in the nation, before the teams of the NBA elected to look elsewhere this year. If nothing else, it was a nice tidbit to tell recruits.
LaQuinton Ross and Aaron Craft will both work out with NBA teams in the summer and participate in summer leagues, but neither heard their name called on draft day.
Therefore, it’s time for Thad Matta and the Ohio State program to turn their attention to the future and try to start a new streak. With that in mind, here is a look at the current Buckeyes with the brightest NBA futures.
D’Angelo Russell was recently cleared to join his fellow freshmen in the class of 2014 at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes couldn’t have received much better news in the summer.
Russell will clearly help Ohio State immediately this season, but we are more interested in his professional prospects here. Fortunately for him, his skill set as a versatile guard who can play off the ball or as a point guard should translate smoothly.
He is a deadeye three-point shooter, can slice through opposing defenses or create his own shot on the outside with his ankle-turning ball-handling skills, and has the length and strength (6'5", 174 lbs) to finish through traffic at the rim. He is also a solid passer, which will come in handy when defenders collapse on his penetration.
Russell will also have a golden opportunity to showcase his skill set to NBA scouts as a freshman because Ohio State lost Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Ross. The Buckeyes were already something of a nightmare on the offensive end last year with those guys in tow, which means they need a figurative savior this season.
Don’t be surprised if the 18-year-old scores well into the double figures per game this season and impresses enough as an overall offensive superstar in the defensively brutal Big Ten to register as a potential first-round pick.
Russell may be the headline maker in Ohio State’s 2014 class, but Keita Bates-Diop, 18, is a ready-made NBA prospect at small forward.
He has incredibly soft touch on his outside jumper, and his length at 6’7” makes it hard for defenders to alter or bother it. In fact, many of the things that make Russell so enticing as a pro prospect apply to Bates-Diop, just at a different position.
He is versatile enough to play anywhere from shooting guard to power forward (he probably projects best as an athletic small forward) and can do almost anything on the offensive end.
Bates-Diop also brings an impressive wingspan and overall speed to the table, which will help him on the defensive end. Just being in Matta’s defense-oriented system will help him develop on that end of the floor, even if it’s only for one season.
For what it’s worth, Bates-Diop noted that it was his comfort level with the program in the first place that drew him to Ohio State, according to Scout.com (subscription required) (via Sporting News): “I really liked the coaching staff and the people on my visit. I was just very comfortable there. We built a real strong connection and relationship. It was just the school for me.”
Bates-Diop can score from the outside or in, is a solid rebounder, will improve in Columbus on the defensive side and is versatile enough to play multiple positions. He will certainly be an NBA player soon.
This is admittedly a significant leap, but we are working under the impression here that Kameron Williams is going to be one of the positive surprises in the entire Big Ten this season. Players like Anthony Lee, Jae’Sean Tate or Marc Loving could slide in here, but they are more tweeners, a la a Deshaun Thomas, who may not work as well in an NBA system.
The synopsis on Williams is shooting, shooting, shooting and more shooting (which will be a sight for sore eyes in Columbus).
Williams is more than just an elite three-point shooter, though. He can attack the basket off the dribble, slam it down in impressive fashion and finish through contact. He also has shifty speed that will appeal to NBA teams on both ends of the floor.
Think of how Patty Mills came in as a ball of game-changing energy during the NBA Finals for the San Antonio Spurs and wore the Miami Heat out with his ability to defend across the full court, shoot from behind the three-point line, penetrate through the defense and kick it out to teammates.
Williams can do all of this.
We are not talking about a top-five pick in the NBA draft one day. But the 6'2" Williams’ skill set as a small guard who can immediately impact the game with his scoring and serve as a tremendous perimeter defender based on speed and lateral quickness mean he will find a spot on an NBA team.
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